04/25/2015 9:37 PM
Photo by Christina Shapiro
Article By: Nate Haeni
Leighton stops 34 shots, Mashinter adds three points (1g-2a)
Cedar Park, Tex. – Through the Rockford IceHogs first two Calder Cup Playoff games they have received terrific play from arguably two of the club’s top players.
It was forward Spencer Abbott that carried the IceHogs on Friday night with two goals and Saturday belonged to goaltender Michael Leighton. The veteran netminder stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced to help the IceHogs take a commanding 2-0 series lead as they defeated the Texas Stars 4-1 at Cedar Park Center.
The IceHogs carried a 2-0 lead into the third period but it was Texas that tried to do what the Hogs had done the previous night – mount a late rally. A fluky play in front of the IceHogs net saw Texas cut the Rockford lead in half and gain some momentum. Brett Ritchie fired a shot that Leighton appeared to stop. The Rockford goaltender then lost track of the puck and laid on his back to try and cover, but it was too late as the puck trickled past the line at 11:58.
Texas continued to pour on the pressure looking for the equalizer as time was winding down. Leighton was up to the task however, stopping anything and everything Texas threw his way.
Then, a costly penalty on Texas’ Derek Meech with 3:54 remaining allowed Rockford to regain control of the contest. Just 11 seconds into the man advantage, Stephen Johns found a streaking Peter Regin and he tossed it into the open net to push the lead back up to two goals at 3-1.
Brandon Mashinter sealed the Game 2 victory as he added an empty net goal with 1:50 left in the game, giving the gritty forward three points (1g-2a) on the night.
Game 3 of the best-of-5 series is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The IceHogs used a strong opening 20 minutes to build a two goal advantage from the start. Garret Ross chipped in a rebound at 9:28 in the first before Tanner Kero continued his hot scoring stretch at 18:01. Since joining Rockford after his collegiate career, Kero shows six goals in eight games.
Next Home Game: Wednesday, April 29, Western Conference Quarterfinals - Game 3, vs. Texas Stars. Face-off is at 7 p.m. The IceHogs will play their first Calder Cup Playoff game in the Forest City since 2010 when the opening round series shifts to Rockford for Game 3. The first 1,500 fans will receive a free cowbell courtesy of BMO Harris Bank. The festivities begin prior to puck drop during a Pregame Block Party, sponsored by Swedish American Hospital.